Assessment Step 2: The General Physical and Laboratory Exam

Always conduct a general physical health exam before anesthetizing a patient. Inspect the eyes, ears, nose and throat, auscult the heart and lungs and feel the abdomen for areas of discomfort or swelling. Determine which preoperative tests should be performed before anesthesia. Consider variables such as: other diseases the patient may have, age and the estimated length of procedure.

Which Animals Need Preoperative Laboratory Tests?

All patients should have pre-anesthetic blood tests. Generally older patients and patients with other diseases (kidney, liver, diabetes) will require more tests before anesthesia and surgery.

Blood Tests Include:

  • Cell Blood Count (CBC) — Long standing oral conditions that result in blood loss can cause low red cells (anemia). Use the CBC to monitor the red and white cells and obtain information about platelets, which are important for clotting.

  • Serum Blood Profile — Evaluate the function of the kidneys, liver and other organs that metabolize anesthesia medication so you can tailor the anesthetic protocol appropriately. If values are abnormal, anesthesia can often still be performed with adjustments to the anesthesia protocol.

    Abnormal blood results

  • Coagulation Tests — Confirm the patient has proper clotting mechanisms to avoid excessive bleeding.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)/Blood Pressure — Evaluate the size and electrical activity of the heart chambers. In cases of significant abnormalities, further diagnostic tests, including an echocardiogram, may be necessary before anesthesia.

    Blood pressure exam on golden retriever

  • X-rays of the Chest and Abdomen — View x-rays of the lungs and abdominal structures before anesthesia. X-ray abnormalities in older patients are more common than in younger dogs or cats.

    Enlarged heart on chest x-ray

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